Tales From The Darkside Got Me Grounded

This story is a testament to how much simpler life was back when I was a kid. I had almost completely forgotten about this story until recently when I was talking to Kristen and low and behold, it just popped in there! The brain never ceases to amaze me because this memory has been stored for over twenty years only to randomly fallout like a picture used as a bookmark falling from a Garfield comic. (Because we all have read these in the 80’s) It comes at a good time too because this blog was turning into rubbish with mindless beer reviews and beef jerky. That’s no way to go through life, son.

Saturday nights for a certain period of my life were a special time. For whatever reason, from 7:00 to let’s say 10 or 11:00, my parents hosted a few couples from church for a bible discussion party. Well, I assume that’s what it was though I can’t be sure because my evenings were far better, which you will find out soon. After their bible yap, everyone would mingle and share the desserts each couple brought. I was allowed downstairs for that. Until then I was confined to the parents room with the TV, books of sharks, and whatever else a young seven-year old needed to pass the time. But at 9:00 my attention was devoted to a very special program that sometimes proved to be regretful whether it was later on at night from fears of what lurks under the bed or….well…keep reading.

I didn’t have cable until high school so with five channels (not including PBS because that was like watching school) and four channels on the smaller rotating dial, the selection was limited. But on Saturday nights there was quite the programing on Atlanta 46! The most memorable, of course, was “Tales From the Darkside”. For those not familiar, get out. I kid! I kid! It was a thirty minute program that featured two stories of macabre and strange tales usually starring some middle of the road actor from the time. Not all the shows were great but to a seven-year old, each one was a masterpiece.

One fateful Saturday afternoon my Dad informed me that a couple would be bringing their kids to the bible party and I would have to share my Saturday night of B-rated TV. While I was a little disappointed because as an only child I am a spoiled little dick, I had no say in the matter and began looking for the bright side. I mean, it could be fun.

It wasn’t at all. I knew it the second they arrived as I watched them pull into the driveway. These kids were melvins who brought their own pillows. They brought their own pillows for Christ sake! I sighed and walked limp-armed back to the parents room across the hall, head hung low and waited to hear people walk up the stairs. But instead Mom called for me to greet the un-welcomed guests and walk them to my Saturday sanctuary where no parental guidance was required.

I must have look like a pill giving a limp handshake to…Whats-his-face (let’s call him Jimmy for lack of memory) and his little sister, Rebecca.

Rebecca would be a problem for me.

With their idiotic board games and pillows in hand, we trudged upstairs to ruin my night. I offered to leave them in my room to do their will upon my collection of GI Joe and Legos, but that only appealed to Jimmy; the one kid I thought wouldn’t mind a night of twisted tales of grown up gore. Rebecca was stuck to my side like a rock in tire tread. Looking back as an adult it was pretty cute but to a kid that waited all week to hear the intro to “Tales From The Darkside”, it was an un-welcomed advance and there was no way to give these home schooled kids the slip.

Throughout the evening I tried to be entertaining and cordial. Jimmy wasn’t too bad, partly because he had Castle Greyskull to play house with and could care less about the world around him. Rebecca, however, sat hip-to-hip with me on the floor, eyes fixed on the TV as we watched “Small Wonder”¬†and I nervously counted down the program schedule until “Tales From The Darkside” aired. Only one more “feel-good” show to go!

Dad brought us popcorn and cokes and asked if I was being a good host to which I responded “yeahyeah” without breaking gaze from the TV. He left to rejoin the adults and I could hardly wait because now was the time I had waited for patiently and even though I had to share this moment with these two weirdos, it was happening.

The intro alone distracted Jimmy from battling the forces of Cobra as he joined his sister and me on the floor, soon to witness the macabre and scary tales this glorious show had to offer. And brother, this one was a doozy! It was the first episode and pilot for the show that George Romero himself wrote and produced. The episode was called “Trick or Treat” and had demons, witches, pirate zombies and Satan himself all wrapped into a half an hour. Let’s break it down, shall we?

After the magical introduction we begin the story with a typical Scrooge-like character, Mr. Haggles, played by Bernard Hughes (one of my all time favorite actors). He is having his books balanced by a couple of accountants and we begin to learn what a cheap miser he really is, charging one of them .04 cents for another cup of coffee. But we also learn he has a twisted side too as he scares the two accountants into a bowel evacuation by an animatronic…thing that he uses on children during his favorite “SEASON”, Halloween.

It’s Willy from Alf!!!

That’s right. Mr. Haggles says what I have always believe and that is Halloween is a season, not a day. Anyway, he goes on to explain how every year he tempts the children in the valley to find the IOU’s of their parents that he holds liens on, hidden somewhere in his house, and if they find them all debt is forgiven. But no one ever has because of the terrifying tricks he has set up around his home.

We see during the afternoon of Halloween the bind he has on the parents as they are so deep in debt to Mr. Haggles that they even have to buy costumes for their children on credit in his general store. He taunts them into sending their children to the Hell house with the chance to have their debts forgiven.

Much like Romero’s style, there is a deep cultural issue hidden behind a cheeky horror story. We see how desperate people in financial distress can be and in some cases, putting their children in harm’s way to get out of their situation. I’m not going as far as saying prostitution but…kind of?

Oh Jimmy, find the IOU’s and get those much need braces or don’t find them and get a beating. The odds aren’t good since Mr. Haggles has a house full of spooky sounds and animatronic¬†ghoulish surprises in store. Jimmy comes close but just couldn’t take the torture of Mr. Haggle’s taunts.

As Jimmy runs out of the house his father picks him up in a nurturing way and walks home defeated. Mr. Haggles laughs at the terrified kid but there is a moment when he has his bubble burst when Mr. Muldoon isn’t angry but rather a caring father. You can almost hear Mr. Haggles sigh a “humbug”. Who is next?

Another potential victim rings his doorbell and from his Wizard of Oz type control room, he looks to see who it is. Another kid? A parent coming to whoop an old man’s ass? Not quite!

In every story when a greedy person meets their fate, there seems to always be this third-party who’s entire being is for punishing the sinner. By far, this is my favorite punishment. He looks into the peephole only to see one of the scariest witches as she cackles a “trick or treat”. He opens the door to shoo away this prankster only to come to the realization that this is a real witch. She flies through the house on her broom and magically finds the hidden IOU’s and blows them in his face. Frantically, Mr. Haggles jumps to catch them all completely overlooking that he HAS A FUCKING WITCH IN HIS DEN and runs through the house shouting “my money!”.

 

In each room he is met with these type of creatures, who are not animatronic, but real and all over his cash. He is in disbelief that a pirate-zombie is sitting on his check deposits and scurries to salvage the flying cash. Which leads him to….

 

 

Ah, Satan himself. The Devil reverses the taunting and repeats “you’re getting warmer” and Mr. Haggles crawls his way down a bright red corridor which is made of what appears to be bubble wrap. While the set design looks to be a mediocre haunted garage that can be found in any suburb on Halloween night, it is a little creepy. Mr. Haggles crawls his way, chasing his blowing cash, to what is perceived to be Hell. Good riddance.

But what about all the poor people who were in debt to Mr. Haggles?

 

 

Well, the witch gave it all to Billy. The End.

As we finished this tale of awesome, I came out of my “Tales From The Darkside” trance to the world around me. Only Jimmy was sitting next to me but where was Rebecca? Apparently during the Hell scene she ran from the room and down to the bible study in tears telling her parents that I forced her to watch ‘R’ rated devil shows. Before I could evaluate the situation I heard the familiar sound of my Mom’s fast paced stair climbing gape. There was nowhere to hide. Jimmy looked at me and said, “You’re in a lot of trouble”. Fuck you, Jimmy, you home-schooled melvin.

The credits were still rolling while Mom and her parents breached the door and she yanked me from the floor so fast there was a tiny pop from a sound barrier break. I was escorted to my room by the elbow and Jimmy was taken downstairs to join his traumatized sister and would be given cookies and cake until their parents decided to leave. I cursed them all from my bed having daydreams much like Ralphy from The Christmas Story,¬†thinking how sorry they would be if I was blind or have an affliction that required sympathy. But I wouldn’t give them the satisfaction.

By the next week when bible study came around, the melvins did not join me. I was thankful for this but my Saturday nights had to be spent without TV. But was it worth it?

Yes it was.

Where Did You Go? X-Mas Addition

Tis the season to be watching tons of the most merry programing and movies Hollywood has to offer. Even though I consider the Halloween season to be the most anticipated time of the year for fun TV, the Christmas season is arguably the most popular. Why I say this is because of all the cable channels that are 100% dedicated to the Holidays like AMC, Hallmark, Lifetime, ABC Family, QVC and TMC. Plus, Christmas movies outnumber any other holiday movies probably 51,687,342 to 1. So today I am going to pick a few of the 51,687,342 Christmas movies and see what the actors are up to today. I hope there are not too many dead.

“Stuck? Stuuuck? STUUUUUCCCKKK!!!”

Poor Flick. The kid that proved sticking your tongue to a flagpole is not an urban legend like previously believed. His role in the Christmas movie to end all Christmas movies, The Christmas Story, was really a prominent role to me. I think it was because he captured what kids were really like and that was his high pitch, shrill screams he belted. Bravo Scott Schwartz!

Holy Jingle Bells! Since his most famous role as Flick, it looks like Scott Schwartz has gotten his tongue stuck on more things than a flagpole. Unbelievably so, Scott made a pretty good run in the porn business through the 90’s. It never ceases to amaze me when writing these “catch up” articles what a few of these childhood stars delve into. But to be fair, he has done other things like his other famous role in The Toy and many after school specials. Today he runs a card shop with his dad and still acts in lower budget movies. His porn star days look like they have gone the way of the Dodo. I mean he is only 5 foot 6 so how impressive could he be? I’m just stating what others think.

“I am not a piece of undigested potato, you fucking dick-hole warrior!”

I don’t know if I quoted that completely accurate but I think I am pretty close. Anyway, Frank Finlay played the ghostly assistant to Scrooge (George C. Scott), Marley in the 1984 made for TV movie Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. And holy holly shit, Marley scared the nog out of me. Really though, that part of the story was always the most unnerving. Much more than the Ghost Of Christmas Yet To Come.

Frank is one of those actors that has been a film legend but has not been privy in my limitless film knowledge because, well, that knowledge is reserved for films like Flight Of The Navigator and Mega Shark 3 (director’s cut). No, Frank is a “serious” British actor that has been in so many films, plays and TV specials from the 1950’s to present, I couldn’t read off the list without taking a pee break. But in that whole list that I am not willing to type, I really only recognized a few like The Pianist, Life Force (amazing space vampire movie) and The Three Musketeers followed a year later by The Four Musketeers (no idea). So with that, thanks Frank. Thanks for scaring the figgy pudding out of me on the most joy-est day of the year.

“Dinosaurs are always linked to the birth of Christ” (Almost made that 10, Norb)

I don’t know if you will remember the “Claymation Christmas Special” but if you do, you will be just as outraged as I am that this isn’t a Christmas classic like “Merry Christmas Charlie Brown” or” How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. No, this amazing TV special died with the dawn of Pixar animation because let’s face it; claymation takes artistic talent and computer geeks out number them 10 to 1. You can probably find the clay animators working for “Ace of Cakes” or something.

So where are our hosts Rex and Douches-Tricer-whocaresish?

Like you didn’t already know that?

“Santa, there is a little boy who wears bear sweaters and corduroy pants that lives in Marietta, Georgia. I think his style is amazing and I totally want to go steady with a guy like that.”

That was actually in the 1985 movie Santa Clause and the actress Carrie Kei Heim said that. I think they edited it out in the TV formated version but I remember it.

Seriously though, I had a huge crush on the young actress as a kid. And if you are a 31-year-old straight male that remembers 1985, you did too. Unfortunately she wasn’t in too many other movies other than Parent Trap II and a few TV programs like “Pippi Longstocking” and “The Equilizer”. No matter, though because she has a successful life as a lawyer, wife and mother of one in Boston. I like learning that child actors have another destiny besides being a guest on “The Smoking Gun TV show”.

That’s where I am going to leave this addition of “Where Did You Go” for the 2009 Christmas season. We learned that Flick’s pole licking led him to a carrier in pornography, Marley is arguably the scariest of the ghosts in The Christmas Carol (except for Goofy), Claymation is awesome and the only way for a comeback is to go buy your own Play-do set, and the cute girl in Santa Clause grew up to be boring and a lawyer. So that means she is damned to Hell. Well, that’s pretty interesting.

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